Sep 04

Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever heard the statement, “there are too many cooks in the kitchen”? You probably have. What does it mean? It means that there are too many people trying to determine what’s for dinner, or too many people trying to be in control. A love or desire for power is one of the most deadly things in humans. If people use their influence in a positive way, it can be a blessing to those around. However, let someone get in an influential position, and have personal ambitions, and it can be a powder keg waiting to explode. I would simply point you to politicians in this country. What they fail to see, and what we often fail to remember is where the power comes from. This desire to be the “master of your own destiny” is as old as time. We see it back in the Garden of Eden. Satan played on Adam and Eve’s desire to determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong. In today’s text, we are going to see a godless Roman ruler act as those he has the power to do what he wants.

The religious leaders have delivered Jesus over to Pilate. Pilate has examined Jesus once, and hasn’t found any fault in Him. However, in a move to try and pacify the crowd, Pilate has Jesus scourged. Some soldiers mock Jesus, and they put a robe and a crown of thorns on Him. All of this is an attempt to humiliate Jesus, so that when Pilate brings Jesus back out, the crowd will calm down. Pilate humiliating Jesus is meant as an act that demonstrates that Pilate is superior to Jesus. When this doesn’t work, Pilate tells the Jews to go and crucify Jesus themselves. However, they know they have already violated the Law they claim to love and follow in several different ways in how they have dealt with Jesus. They at first say that Jesus should die because He says He is the Son of God. This terrifies Pilate, because the Romans were scared to anger any god for fear of retribution against them. Therefore, Pilate goes back inside to talk with Jesus, and He asks Him where He is from. But Jesus stands there and says nothing. Then we read this exchange, “Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have the power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been give you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin'” (John 19:10-11). There are a few lessons we can learn from this exchange.

The first lesson is having peace in the midst of chaos because of your trust in God. The religious leaders have been lying about Jesus, and making His life miserable for some time. They have done everything in their power to see Jesus killed. Yet, Jesus doesn’t retaliate. He knew why He had come. He knew how things were going to play out. While you and I may not know every detail about how things will play out, we do know as a child of God, in the end we win. Therefore, we don’t have to fear or make a fuss when life is chaotic, because we know that God is still on the throne and in control of it all. The second lesson is that power comes from God. Yes, Pilate was in charge. However, Pilate was in charge because God had placed in him charge. There is a lot of political turmoil in America right now. There are competing visions on what is best for our nation. There are a lot of attempts to remove people from their positions, simply because people don’t like them. However, as Christians we must understand that God is the One who instituted government, and it is for our good (Rom. 13:1-4). And, it is God who puts politicians in place, and it is God who removes them. At the end of the day, we must remember that God is the One in control of all things, at all times. The final lesson is to understand our role. Jesus said that those who delivered Him to Pilate had the greater sin. This doesn’t mean that Jesus was saying that Pilate was guiltless. Pilate was a sinner like everyone else. He knew the right thing to do, and yes he tried to release Jesus a couple of different times. However, in the end, Pilate went along with the crowd. Therefore, he bore guilt in the crucifixion of Jesus as well. Let this serve as a reminder of what James wrote in James 4:17, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin.”

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Sep 03

They Are Listening

Most parents have a story of having a conversation that they thought their kids weren’t listening to, only to find out later that they were listening. Very few things are more embarrassing than having your own words used against you, or trotted out in an inappropriate time. However, there are also stories of children listening to their parents, and it being a very good thing because of what the parents were saying. I would imagine that we would all be surprised if we learned who all listened to the words that we say. There is a story in the Gospels that shows people are listening, even those we would deem as enemies. Jesus has been crucified and buried. The following day, the chief priests and the Pharisees decided they needed to go see Pilate about a pressing matter. Matthew 27:62-63 says, “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, after three days I will rise.'”

The most interesting part about those verses is this, the only people who remember Jesus’ words about rising from the dead were His enemies, at least initially. The disciples remembered later, after they saw Jesus. But those that we would think would never listen to what Jesus said, are the very ones who were listening. Of course, they were listening because they wanted to trap Him, and have a reason to condemn Him. Regardless of the reason, they were listening.

You and I would be wise to remember this, because people are always listening to what we say. That can be a good thing or a not so good thing. It all depends on how we use our words. Look at the example that Jesus set for us while on the cross. His first words, as He was being nailed to the cross were, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Of course, they knew what they were doing, they just didn’t know that what they were doing is exactly what had to be done on their behalf, and on behalf of the world. Instead of being angry for what was happening to Him, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness. Later, as He is hanging in between the two criminals, at least one of the criminals was insulting Him. Yet, when the one turned in faith to Jesus, Jesus’ reply was, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Notice, Jesus’ words were not stern; instead, they were loving and gracious. We can even learn from what Jesus didn’t say. As everyone was mocking Him and mistreating Him, He didn’t engage them. As Peter wrote, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return, when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). When you and I open our mouth, we can either speak life into someone or we can tear them down. James spends a decent portion of his letter talking about the dangers of the tongue. The apostle Paul says that our words should be gracious in Colossians 4:6. I know that sometimes people’s words hurt. Sometimes, people use their words to spread lies about you. However, when we return fire, we do nothing but show that we are just like them. As the saying goes, “If you roll around in the mud with a pig, you both get dirty.” As hard as it can be at times, the best thing to do is to commit yourself to the Lord, trust that He knows the truth, and knowHe will defend you when needed. You never know when what you might say, or in some cases not say, could be what God uses to draw someone to Himself. So, choose your words carefully, because they are listening.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Sep 02

I Am Barabbas

There is a person in the Gospels that we only meet at the time of Jesus being unfairly tried by the Roman government. However, this person perfectly describes us. His name is Barabbas. In Matthew 27, we learn that Barabbas was a notorious prisoner. He had tried to lead the overthrowing of the Roman government, and even killed someone. He was a person who deserved to die for his crimes, and he had been sentenced to die for them. However, Barabbas was about to get an unexpected second chance. The religious leaders had condemned Jesus, and brought Him to the Pilate. They brought Jesus to Pilate, because the Jews couldn’t put anyone to death. The Romans would have to do that. After speaking with Jesus, Pilate realized that Jesus hadn’t done anything deserving of death. Therefore, Pilate came up with what he thought was a good plan. Every year, he would release to the Jews one of their prisoners as a show of good faith. Pilate picked a man who could be considered the worst of the worst. Surely, they would choose to let Jesus go instead of this man. However, the people would have none of it. They shouted at the encouragement of the religious leaders to release Barabbas. In a very strange sort of way, Barabbas represents you and I.

Barabbas was a sinner, as are you and I. Romans 3:23 reminds us, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Barabbas deserved to die for His crimes, as do you and I. Romans 6:23a says, “For the wages of sin are death.” Yet, Jesus became the substitute for Barabbas, just as He did for you and I. While we may not see ourselves as Barabbas, the Bible clearly shows that we are. There is no division or distinction in sins. They are all sinful acts of rebellion against a holy God. They all deserve the same punishment, death, both physical and spiritual. Yet, in His love and because of His grace, Jesus took our guilt, shame, and punishment. He bore our sins on the cross. Because of this, we can go free from our deserved punishment, just like Barabbas did. Praise God for His salvation!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Sep 01

What Is Truth

In the Gospels, as Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, Pilate asks a question in response to something Jesus said. Pilate’s question was, what is truth? I think that is something that our society today is struggling with as well. There are those who want to claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Rather, they argue that the truth is different for each person. If I may be so bold, what a miserable way to live. How could you possibly know if your “truth” was the right truth? Why is it that we will accept other absolute truths such as 1+1=2, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or that George Washington was the first President of the United States; yet, when it comes to accepting religious truth, suddenly everyone gets to choose their own truth? Jesus makes it clear that “truth” isn’t just an absolute set of facts, it is also a person. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.”

John 17 is what we should truly refer to as the “Lord’s Prayer”, instead of what we read in Matthew 6, “Our Father who art in heaven….” In Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching the disciples to pray, whereas, here in John 17 this is Jesus actually praying. Jesus here is praying in the Garden. It is shortly before He is going to be betrayed by Judas, setting the events in motion that will lead to His crucifixion. John 17 can be broken down into three sections: Jesus prays for Himself (vv. 1-5), Jesus prays for His Disciples (vv. 6-19), and Jesus prays for His future disciples (those who are saved) (vv. 20-26). To “sanctify” means to set apart. What would set the disciples of Jesus apart from the world? According to the verse, it would be their acceptance God’s Word as truth. Evidence that they accepted it as truth would be seen in their obedience to it. We can certainly see this in our society right now. Sadly, the percentage of people who believe the Bible is going down. In fact, I read an article in Newsweek last night that shows that 52% of people don’t believe Jesus is God. They instead have relegated Him to a “good moral teacher.” The article went on to talk about other truths that are outlined and taught in the Bible that people don’t believe. Since the Bible is where Jesus is revealed to us in who He is, and what He has done; if we don’t believe what the Bible says, then we are rejecting the truths of Jesus. As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “If Jesus isn’t who He says He is, and said the things He said, He would not be a good moral Teacher.” One such example is that Jesus said He was God and was from God many times in the Gospels. If that was a lie, how can you say He was a good moral teacher? The point is, it’s not a lie. I will admit that wrapping my mind around Jesus possessing two natures, one divine and one human, is hard to fully comprehend. Yet, the point becomes, do I believe the Bible? If I do, then I must accept everything it teaches from Genesis to Revelation.

A question I have heard some pastors ask before is, what do you believe is the truth? I believe they had good intentions in asking the question. However, God has not left the answer of, what is truth, up to us. He has told us what the truth is. His Word is truth. Because it is truth, it points us to how to have eternal life. Therefore, with the debate of, what is truth, settled; all that is left is for me to submit myself to it, and rely on God’s strength to live it out in my every day life. That is what will set Christians apart from the world.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 31

Growing Cold

Have you ever felt like a situation was never going to change? You wanted it to change. You prayed for it to change. But it just never seemed like change was going to happen. Or what about looking at the condition of the world, and wonder how long is God going to wait to do something about what is going on. Jesus said that many will have this opinion or feeling as we get closer and closer to the return of Jesus. Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 24:12-13, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” In these verses, Jesus shows us both sides of humanity. On the one hand, there are those whose love will grow cold, that is their love and commitment to Jesus will wane. This is because as Jesus said “lawlessness abounds.” While we might tend to think of this in terms of riots and things like we are seeing; Jesus is actually referring to the fact that people will not love and obey God. We will continue to go further and further away from the truth of God’s Word. On the other hand, those who persevere will give evidence to the truth that they are saved. The Bible teaches that those who are saved are secure in God’s grace. It’s not just that they won’t fall away in their faith, it is that they can’t fall away in their faith. This is because God’s grace is not only sufficient to save us, it is also sufficient to sustain us and keep us until the very end.

With these two truths, we must understand that more than our words, it is our actions that show our relationship with Jesus or lack there of. As Christians, we must remain faithful to God no matter what comes in life. No matter what is going on around us, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must follow Him. We must hold one another accountable for the life that we live. The reason that many backslide is because there is no one to encourage them and hold them accountable. This is one of the ways that the church can be a blessing to believers. The church is a reminder that you are not alone. There are others who can help you and encourage you when your walk gets difficult. Don’t let your love grow cold. The best way to prevent this is by being in the Word every day. The more I know God the more I will love God. You can’t read of God’s love, grace, and mercy and not love Him. How are you doing on reading the Bible? It’s not about reading it through in a year. It is about reading it at a pace where you can read it, meditate on it, and memorize portions of it. You do all of that so that you can obey the Bible. One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable in reading, is to read it with someone. Then meet with them either in person or digitally once a week to discuss what you are reading and what God is teaching you. Your love growing cold or not is within your control. You can either fan the flames or allow them to be extinguished.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 28

Until He Returns

Perhaps no topic has more interest among Christians, and many non-Christians as the return of Jesus. There are many theories on when He will return. Speculation on how close His return is runs rampant, especially when things in the world seem to get crazier than normal. This fascination with the return of Jesus isn’t new however. We can see in at least two places in the New Testament where the disciples were curious about Jesus’ return. In both instances, Jesus redirects their focus. I believe it is something that we should do as well. How did Jesus redirect them? Listen to what He said in Matthew 24:45-46, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”

The context of those verses is Jesus teaching His disciples while on the Mount of Olives. This teaching/sermon covers both Matthew 24 and 25. What started the conversation was Jesus’ prediction that the Temple would be destroyed. This caused the disciples to ask Jesus what the sign of His return would be. In Matthew 24 is the famous passage of “wars and rumors of wars.” One thing we need to remember to do is read the entire context of it. Many say that a sign of Jesus’ return will be the “wars and rumors of wars along with disease, famine, and death.” However, if you read just a verse later it says that “all these things are the beginning of sorrow, but the end is not yet.” In other words, those things are not the end. They might be signaling the beginning of the end, but they are not the end in and of themselves. However, none of that was Jesus’ focal point. What was, you may be wondering. I would argue that there is one main point and it leads to one main action for us today.

The main point is that one day Jesus will return. This is something that is promised throughout the Old Testament, and it is spoken of often in the New Testament as well. Jesus hammers home the point that we don’t know when His return will be, but He makes it abundantly clear that He will return. He uses illustrations of a fig tree producing fruit and then leaves as well as lightning to show the uncertainty of the timing of His return. However, just as you would expect to see figs on a fig tree that has leaves; Jesus is going to return at some point. Along these lines, we must also remember that just because we don’t know when He will return, doesn’t mean that His return is unknown. God the Father knows the times and the seasons, and He is in control of them. There is a fixed moment in history in which Jesus will return. Of this we can be certain. From this flows the application point of our verses. The application is for the child of God to be faithfully serving the Lord until He returns. Some people would rather sit around and debate the finer points of eschatology, that is the doctrine of the end times. They want to debate the merits of will the church go through the Tribulation Period or will the church be raptured before the final seven years begins. While it is a fascinating study, and certainly worthwhile to study; it will not help us accomplish our mission. Who cares if we are right on when He returns, if we have not shared the Gospel with the lost and many millions of people go to hell? The imminency of Jesus’ return is meant to both encourage us as well as spur us to faithful service. It should encourage us, because every day brings us closer to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ for all of eternity. Every day brings us closer to the day in which sin and sickness no longer rule our lives. Jesus’ return should also spur us to be faithful, because millions of eternities hang in the balance of them hearing the Gospel, and surrendering to it in faith. While God will save those He has chosen to save, we don’t know who they are. Therefore, as a Christian, we must treat each person as both a lost sinner and the elect of God. We must share the Gospel with full assurance that God in His grace will save some. Each conversation we have, we should believe that this is a person whom God will save. Does this mean we believe that everyone will be saved? Absolutely not! The Bible makes is crystal clear that this is the case. However, we must treat each person as though they will be saved, and the way that we do this is by praying for them before we share the Gospel, then share the Gospel, and even pray for them afterwards. As long as their is breath in the body, there is hope for the soul. Therefore, we don’t grow weary and we do not give up until the Lord saves them, they die, or we die.

Dear Christian, we have a mission given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. We only have a finite amount of time to work in this mission. So, as much fun as it is to debate the timing of Jesus’ return, it is more important for us to act as though He is coming back today. Which means, we must get busy sharing the Gospel because there are still many who have never heard, and even more who have never believed. Will you be faithful to your calling until the very end? Will you be called a good and faithful servant when Jesus returns? It is possible, but only if we obey!

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 27

Direct Access

Can you imagine having a concern about something, and being able to walk right into the Oval Office, and meet with the President directly? Any time you wanted, for whatever reason you wanted. I would imagine that would be something pretty special. Yet, as Christians, we have something even more incredible. We have direct access to God the Father, any time for any reason. How is this possible? It is possible because of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He spent several hours giving some final instructions to the disciples. He also spent some time encouraging them, because He knew they were filled with sorrow at His announcement that He would be leaving them soon. Even though they didn’t fully understand at the time what Jesus was talking about, they knew that they didn’t want Him to go. Part of His final teachings to them was how their relationship with Him and with God the Father were going to change. As a result of His death and resurrection, Jesus told them “in that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (John 16:26-27).

In that verse, Jesus tells His disciples how their relationship is going to change. Up to this point, Jesus has prayed on their behalf. They haven’t prayed in Jesus’ name, because they have been with Him. However, Jesus tells them that they are going to have a direct line to God the Father after He leaves. It is because of His crucifixion and resurrection that we can be forgiven of our sins, but also that we can have access to God any time, any place. It is the faith given to them by God that makes it possible for them to believe in Jesus, and have this incredible privilege of speaking with God the Father. I want us to grasp the magnitude of what Jesus is saying. Because of what He is going to do on their behalf, and what He did on our behalf; we can come and communicate with the One who created everything and who holds it all together. We can communicate with the One who knows the end from the beginning. We don’t have to go to a person and ask them to pray to God on our behalf. If we are children of God, then we can pray and talk with God ourselves. This is the symbolism of the veil being torn top to bottom when Jesus died. When we come to God, we are not coming to Him based on our merits. Rather, we are coming before God based on the righteousness of Christ that has been given to us by Jesus. Jesus’ right standing with God the Father, gives us a right standing with God the Father. Therefore, let’s learn what the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What is on your heart right now? What are you worrying over? What has you stressed out? Take it to the Lord in prayer. He’s there, He’s listening, and He will answer.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 26

Called to Stand Out

I was very fortunate to play at a somewhat high level of baseball. God gave me a talent that I was able to use for many years. After my ball playing days were over, and Diana and I had kids who were old enough to play, I got into coaching some. However, I didn’t stay in coaching too long. I quickly realized that given my position as a pastor, it wasn’t easy nor fun to look into the eyes of a mom and dad who thought their kid was the next Derek Jeter, and tell them that he wasn’t good enough. Moms and dads don’t like hearing that. For the record, it was hard for me to hear one year that one of my boys wasn’t good enough to make the all-star team. However, having been around the game and see some of the best, I and the coach who cut my son, could recognize exceptional talent. You can look at some kids and they just have it. And then you can look at others and see that baseball or whatever sport just isn’t their thing. It’s not a value judgment on them as a child by any means. It’s looking at the needs of a team, the skill set of a child, and understanding that this isn’t the right fit. Christians are meant to be like the cream of the crop in sports or any other field, they are to stand out. How do I know this? Because of what Jesus said in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

One of the things that breaks my heart in many churches is how hard we try to fit in with the world. We don’t want to be called weird or Bible-thumper or whatever other word people might use. We rationalize doing things by saying, “well we have to do this so that people will hear the Gospel.” Do we want people to hear the Gospel? Absolutely we do! However, the reason that we do some things isn’t so that people will hear the Gospel, it is so that we won’t feel weird or be ostracized by those who don’t love Jesus. It’s interesting, when our child comes to us and says that someone called them weird or they feel like they are weird, we don’t try to make them fit it. I can remember when our middle son, Noah, came to Diana and I having some problems being called names and being picked on. I didn’t tell him to go do certain things so people wouldn’t call him weird. Instead, Diana and I told him that “weird is a side effect of being awesome.” We tell kids that it is ok not to fit in. In fact, we encourage them to not always follow the crowd. Do you remember wanting to do something with your friends that you parents though wasn’t real intelligent? What did they say? “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that to?” For the record parents, that is a dangerous question with some kids! So, we know to tell our kids that it is ok to be different and to stand out. Yet, as adult Christians we don’t follow our own advice. We compromise in ways that will help us fit in, all while rationalizing it so that we can sleep at night. Jesus here is plainly telling His disciples that they were going to be persecuted, they were going to be hated. If we are going to live out the Gospel in our every day life, then we have to know that the world isn’t going to like it, and they are going to have something to say about it. And that is ok! We aren’t called to please them, we are called to please the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus chose us and saved us not so that we could fit in with the world He has called us out of. But so that by standing out, we could point others to Him. So, Christians, stand up and stand out. The world will never see their need for Jesus by the church trying to fit in with the world. It is only as we live differently, that the world will know that there is something different to live for than this life. Allow God to use you for His glory to stand out from the crowd, so that the world can be drawn to Him.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 25

Follow My Example

We live in a society where many want to be in leadership, but very few want to live the life of a leader. The life of a leader is hard. While many people see leadership as getting to tell others what to do, Jesus showed up that true leadership is leading the way. It is about setting the example, instead of the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do” that we see from a lot in leadership. I remember a song from many years ago now, by the group Phillips, Craig, and Dean. The song was about a father wanting to be like Jesus, because his son wanted to be like it. The last line in the chorus was, “I want to be just like You, because he wants to be just like me.” Jesus showed us that leadership is first service. We see this being demonstrated in John 13. It is the night Jesus will be betrayed. He is with His disciples, He has instituted what we call today, the Lord’s Supper, also known as the Passover meal. Jesus at the conclusion of supper does what many in the room thought to be unthinkable. He got up from the table and washed their feet. And after doing that, He sits back down and asks them, do you know what I have done to you? Not waiting for a reply Jesus then says, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:13-14).

At the end of John 13, Jesus tells the disciples the world will know that they belong to Him by their love for one another. Combining that with what Jesus did here towards the beginning of the chapter, we see that one of the ways that we love one another is by serving one another. In order to serve one another, we must have a humble attitude. Here is the God of creation, the Son of God, the Messiah, stooping down to wash the disciples feet. He would have had every right to demand that they wash His feet. Yet, we see Jesus demonstrating the necessary humility to serve the disciples in order to set the example for them. Jesus shows us that leadership is more than a position, it is an attitude. Do you see yourself as a servant to the Lord? Do you see yourself as a servant to others? Have you demonstrated that by actually going out and serving other people? In a day and age where there is a lot of talk, true disciples of Christ first let their life do the talking for them. What message is your life saying?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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Aug 24

The Bigger Picture

Have you ever been guilty of not being able to see the forest because of the trees? Sometimes we get so laser focused on what is in front of us, that we miss the bigger picture. This is something that happened in many ways with the people during Jesus’ ministry. In our today today, the people wanted Jesus to keep His friend, Lazarus, from dying. Certainly, Lazarus’ sisters believed He could have healed Lazarus. The people around them even made that statement. However, there was a bigger picture issue that Jesus was concerned about. We know this from John 11:4, “When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.'”

Mary and Martha had sent someone to tell Jesus what was going on with Lazarus. Jesus does something really strange, at least in our minds. He stays where He and the disciples are for another two days. Again, we have to remember the bigger picture. In our minds, when someone is sick we want God to heal them quickly. There is another smaller picture that we see, and it is the disciples’ viewpoint. When Jesus announces to them that He is headed to Judea to Lazarus, they immediately speak up and remind Jesus that the religious leaders have wanted to kill Him lately. That was their way of asking, do you think this is the best time to go there? The two narrow visions are of Lazarus’ sisters, who both said, “Lord, if You had been here my brother wouldn’t have died; then, there are the disciples who aren’t in a hurry to die themselves, and therefore want to stay away from potential danger. Of course, we know how the story turns out. Jesus goes, calls Lazarus to come out, and a dead man comes walking out of the tomb. But that wasn’t the big picture that Jesus was talking about in verse 4. That was another “battle”, not the “war.” The big picture came later in the text in three ways. First, Jesus said all of this was going to happen so that the disciples would believe. While the disciples had some belief in who Jesus was, it wasn’t a complete belief in Him. This event was going to further strengthen their faith in Jesus. Second, we read that some who were standing around the tomb and saw Lazarus come walking out that day “believed.” This is John’s way of saying, they believed that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah promised by God. The last way is that those who God was not drawing to Himself in faith, were hardened in their unbelief. I know this is a hot button topic in Christianity; however, if we read the Bible as it is written, we see that both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility/will work in concert with each other. God knows who will be saved. However, this doesn’t violate man’s responsibility or his/her will in anyway. The choice to believe in Jesus or to not to was equally present in those who were at the tomb that day. Some responded to the revelation of who Jesus was, and some chose to ignore it. What was the difference? The drawing of the Holy Spirit and the responsibility to respond to that drawing.

When God reveals Himself and His power to us, we have a responsibility to respond to that revelation. I will try to illustrate it. Let’s say you are traveling on the highway, you are speeding. All of the sudden, you pass a police vehicle. Immediately, the police vehicle pulls out of its spot, turns on the blue lights, and gets in behind you. In this moment, you have a choice. You can do what you know you should do, which is slow down, and pull over. Or, you can continue to drive and act like you don’t know the policeman is behind you. Let’s say you decide to continue to drive, does that mean at that moment you became a lawbreaker? No, because you were already a lawbreaker before you decided to try and elude the police. You were a lawbreaker when you started speeding. Therefore, the police did not make you break the law, it was a choice of yours. However, the blue lights alerted you to the fact you were breaking the law. This in biblical terms is conviction, an awareness of our sin. It is what we do when we feel the conviction that shows we are either responding to God or hardening ourselves to God, just like the decision to pull over or try and elude the police. We are already sinners from the time of birth because we inherited a sin nature ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. We prove this by making volitional choices to sin.

The bigger picture at Lazarus’ tomb that day was the glory of God. He was glorified by raising Lazarus, but also giving those who responded to Him salvation. What is the bigger picture that God is trying to do in your life? Remember, it isn’t always about the immediate circumstances. Many times, it is about the bigger picture.

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

Posted in Through The Bible in 2020 | Leave a comment